The cool thing about Grouplove is that they know how to ride the wave of their success without biting off more than they can chew. The quirky Los Angeles-based indie pop band waited three years to release their latest album Big Mess, and it seemed like they used that timespan to focus building their fansbase while writing quality songs instead of feeling the pressure of needing to release something new every year. But it’s ok, because they collaborated on John Green’s film adaptations of The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns to keep us fans at bay as we awaited their third album.
Lead single “Welcome To Your Life” reassured longtime fans that the band wasn’t looking to get super adventurous with the instrumentation of the new album, but still showcased a relatability that embodies the craziness of real life. They’ve even gone on record with iHeartRadio to say the song is “…about this world being messed up, and dark, and a difficult place, but that it can be beautiful, and it can be your fantasy…” Instrumentally, the track is standard for the band, with its easy-going pace and circus-meets-indie flick characteristics. Vocally, Hannah Hooper shines, leading a majority of the song while Christian Zucconi comes in to harmonize during the chorus.
Lyrically, “Welcome To Your Life” puts the struggles of trying to live up to society’s standards of what being “put together” means into perspective with lines like “Trying to keep saying I feel okay/telling myself this now for days/mean man, machine man/I’ve been nothing but a puppets hand”. Millennials tend to feel that pressure a little bit more with the constant battle of being told to work harder, do more, and be better, while also making sure you don’t shatter into a million tiny pieces when you realize that the”promised land” is “nothing but a devil’s hand.” However, the song’s chorus comes in like a much-needed breath of fresh air to remind us that our life can be anything that we want it to be and “it could be a fantasy” if we make sure to take the time to take part in all of things that we ensure lasting memories (“ask a wise man/he’ll say what’s been done/all the roads in this world/were made by the young, by the young”). Its accompanying music video plays into the lyrics by becoming a visual metaphor for how life can go from calm to chaos in the blink of an eye, in which a little girl sits in a classroom by herself watching various types of video scenes with crazy hurricane-like winds occurring as the scenes become more intense.
Grouplove continues the common theme of ‘real life’ throughout Big Mess with the somewhat sobering ballad “Enlighten Me”and the raw and honest ending track “Hollywood.” The former discusses the ever-popular topic of living in the present and appreciating what you have, while the latter gives us a taste of how hard it is to stay sane in the music industry. Why are they different from all of the other songs with the similar topics? The correlation between the instrumentation and lyrics.
“Enlighten Me”is prominent with pianos and light percussion but the additional quirky guitars give it an atmospheric and uplifting tone, which is commonly associated with the theme addressed. On the lyrical scheme, there are slightly darker undertones that counteract with the lighthearted instrumentation. The listener is reminded of how we don’t take advantage of our youth until we beg to have it back (“I’ve been here before, yeah, we just went down this road/a long time to feel young, short time to get old”). Zucconi takes a more somber tone both lyrically and vocally as the song progresses, especially in thought-provoking lines like “the tendency of time is to never understand it/the lesson of my life is to never comprehend it/no matter how much you spend trying to blend in/or maybe on my deathbed I finally get an answer.”
“Hollywood”‘s musicality is overtly stripped down compared to a majority of their songs. It’s definitely not a bad thing because it shows that they don’t have to rely on bells and whistles to make their music memorable. Light instrumentation paired with angelic harmonies from Hooper and Zucconi give the lyrics the spotlight, a very important aspect when talking about one’s personal experience. The music industry is a competitive place where artists can easily lose themselves in their rise to fame. This song makes it very clear that Grouplove is going to do everything in their power to stay true to themselves and their music (“I’ve got something classical/to keep the people wanting more”) and that they want to make an impact on their fans (“Tell me that you want me/more than just a memory”)..
Of course, Grouplove channeled clear similarities to Never Trust A Happy Song and Spreading Rumors in the album’s remaining tracks, particularly in the romantic ballad “Heart Of Mine” and the upbeat group of “Do You Love Someone,” “Spinning,” “Standing In The Sun” and “Don’t Stop Making It Happen.” While they stick to what they’re good at, the band always strives to make sure they play around with different elements to keep their fans on their toes. They combined a slight hint of mainstream electronic hip-hop with party track “Good Morning” (think “Lean On” by Major Lazer) while they leaned more towards pure alternative on “Traumatized” and “Cannonball.”
Big Mess lives up to its name in the most appropriate way possible. Grouplove stayed consistent to their quirky, upbeat brand of electro indie pop that they’ve built their entire career on while still growing from a lyrical standpoint. Big Mess touches base on the very real aspects of life, whether the song’s goal is to inspire or serve as an intervention. The balance between upbeat and ballad within the tracks portrays the beauty and chaos of life, in which you have to slow down sometimes to really see what your life and yourself have become from the constant feeling of needing to go all the time. Grouplove gave their listeners something to listen to during those much needed times of slowing down when life is a Big Mess.